GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN-THE LATEST
The Latest: GOP, Democrats trade blame as shutdown drags on
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is dining with his top advisers as he remains in Washington during a partial government shutdown.
Trump arrived at Vice President Mike Pence’s residence at the Washington Naval Observatory on Friday evening. The White House says the incoming acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and senior adviser Jared Kushner are joining the pair.
Trump called off his vacation to his private Florida club because of the shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, while even more are working without pay.
The budget impasse centers on Trump’s demand for money for his proposed border wall and the refusal of Democrats to provide that. Both sides expect the stalemate to last into the new year.
Vatican hears testimony from alleged McCarrick abuse victim
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has taken testimony from a man who says ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused him for years starting when he was 11, evidence that the initial case against the retired archbishop has expanded dramatically to include serious allegations of misconduct.
Attorney Patrick Noaker says his client, James Grein, testified Thursday in New York before the Rev. Richard Welch, judicial vicar for the New York archdiocese who was tasked by the Holy See to take his statement.
Grein came forward in July after a U.S. church investigation determined that an allegation that McCarrick had groped another teenage altar boy in the 1970s was credible.
Grein’s claims are more serious, alleging that McCarrick exposed himself to Grein when he was 11 and then molested him for years, including during confession.
ASIA-YEAR END REVIEW
Trump and China loom over a tumultuous year in Asia
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un staged an extraordinary summit in Singapore in June where they vowed to pursue a nuclear settlement.
But there’s since been no substantial disarmament by the North, and many have the same old fears that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons.
As 2018 closes, the sense of unease in South Korea has been shared across Asia, where many are wondering how China and Trump, and a U.S.-China trade war that has caused fears of a global economic slowdown, will affect them.
China’s increasing power has been impossible to ignore as it pushes its territorial claims and, despite some resistance, uses money and influence to promote its interests.
Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly waded into Asia’s biggest hot spots.
POLICE OFFICER KILLED-CALIFORNIA-THE LATEST
The Latest: Community vigil honors slain California officer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A community vigil has been held to honor a Northern California policeman killed during a traffic stop.
Friends, relatives and fellow police officers along with many residents gathered Friday night in the tiny town of Newman to remember Cpl. Ronil Singh on the same day that his alleged killer was captured.
Officers and relatives held back tears as they described Singh, a native of Fiji, as a man who loved his adopted country, his community and his work.
Singh was shot Wednesday after stopping a suspected drunken driving suspect in the town southeast of San Francisco.
After a two-day manhunt, Gustavo Arriaga was arrested in connection with the killing Friday in Bakersfield.
Authorities say they were told Arriaga, who was in the country illegally, was heading to his native Mexico.
EPA proposes easing regulation of mercury from coal plants
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is considering backing off of its regulation of toxic mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.
In an announcement Friday, the EPA proposes what would be another Trump administration rollback of federal enforcement under the Clean Air Act. It’s the latest administration effort on behalf of the country’s coal industry.
Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of mercury pollution. Mercury harms the developing nervous systems of children and causes other severe health damage.
Environmental groups say federal and state limits have helped cut mercury emissions from power plants by 85 percent since 2006.
But the new EPA finding would conclude it’s not “appropriate” for the agency to regulate the toxic emissions.
Environmental groups fear the move is a step toward rolling back toxic-emissions standards for coal-fired plants.
SUPREME COURT-AVOIDING CONTROVERSY
Supreme Court keeps a lower profile, but for how long?
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court term has steered clear of drama since the tumultuous confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The next few weeks will test whether the calm can last.
The justices will confront a raft of high-profile appeals when they gather in January, on abortion restrictions, workplace discrimination, gerrymandering and more. And there already are signs that the conservative justices are willing to take on controversial cases, even though Chief Justice John Roberts seems intent on staying above the political fray.
Roberts has essentially become the court’s swing vote since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The Supreme Court will reconvene on Jan. 4 to consider new cases for arguments in April and into the next term.
MICHIGAN LEGISLATURE-LAME DUCK-THE LATEST
The Latest: Snyder signs bill to require grades for schools
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law requirements that letter grades be issued for each public school in the state.
The new accountability system will begin in 2019 under the law enacted Friday.
The Republican governor, who leaves office next week, signed or vetoed scores of other bills Friday. He vetoed one that would have blocked any future attempts to force the disclosure of donors to nonprofits, including political groups whose sway has grown in elections.
He signed an environmental cleanup bill that Democrats say would make it harder to toughen the standard for protecting drinking water from certain toxic chemicals.
The law will require the state to use federal toxicity values when setting cleanup criteria for hazardous substances and take additional steps when upgrading standards. Republicans say it makes long-overdue updates to promote cleanup and reuse of abandoned industrial properties.
DHS Secretary Nielsen visits border after child’s death
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is visiting the Texas border city where an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy was detained with his father before dying in government custody .
DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said Nielsen is heading to El Paso on Friday. Waldman says Nielsen will tour multiple stations and substations operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Nielsen is also scheduled to meet with emergency medical technicians and medical professionals, as well as local officials. Nielsen will go to Yuma, Arizona, on Saturday.
The trip comes four days after the death of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Felipe was the second Guatemalan child to die in CBP’s custody in three weeks.
Nielsen has called the death “deeply concerning and heartbreaking” and requested medical help from other government agencies.
Bomb strikes tourist bus near Egypt’s Giza pyramids, kills 2
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security officials say a roadside bomb has hit a tourist bus in an area near the Giza Pyramids, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others.
The officials said the bus was traveling Friday in the Marioutiyah area near the pyramids when the roadside bomb went off.
There was no immediate word on the nationalities of the tourists onboard, but the officials said one of those killed was an Egyptian.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Egypt has battled Islamic militants for years in the Sinai Peninsula in an insurgency that has occasionally spelt over to the mainland, hitting minority Christians or tourists. However, this is the first attack to target foreign tourists in almost two years.
The Latest: Turkey-backed Syrians brace for key town clash
BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey-backed Syrian fighters say their forces are on alert and ready for an offensive in a flashpoint Kurdish-held town after Syrian troops announced that they have entered it and raised the government’s flag there.
Spokesman Youssef Hammoud says Turkey-backed fighters have reinforced their positions on the front lines with Manbij, including in areas where Syrian troops have taken up positions alongside the Kurdish-led forces. Turkey and its Syrian allied fighters have threatened an offensive against Manbij, to dislodge the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia. Turkey considers the U.S.-backed militia a terrorist organization.
The escalation in Manbij reached new heights in the wake of the U.S.’s Dec. 14 decision to withdraw its troops from Syria. Although a timetable has not yet been made public, rival forces in the area are readying to grab territory vacated by U.S. troops.
Hammoud said Syrian government troops have reinforced their existing positions south and west of Manbij, but have not entered the town.
“We are in forward positions all along the front line with Manbij and rural areas. We have reinforced our positions and are on alert, awaiting the signal for the start of the battle,” he said.
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